There’s one more hire to make, but Maury Gallagher can count on people picking up the phone when he starts interviewing prospective teammates for Erik Jones at Petty GMS.
The NASCAR Cup Series team announced Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that it has locked Jones into a much-deserved long-term contract that will keep the rebuilding process moving along.
Maury Gallagher and Erik Jones have Petty GMS moving in the right direction
Last December’s announcement that Maury Gallagher had taken a controlling interest in the former Richard Petty Motorsports caught even some NASCAR Cup Series insiders by surprise. However, it was a much-needed move.
The team’s last victory came from Aric Almirola in 2014, and RPM dropped down to a single-car garage in 2017. Gallagher’s first move was to bring Ty Dillon, who was going to drive for his planned Cup Series start-up, to the reshaped organization.
Dillon has turned out to be a one-and-done at Petty GMS, with the sides announcing a “mutual decision” (i.e., a firing) this month, effective at the end of the season.
Meanwhile, Jones, 26, has already eclipsed last season’s six top-10 finishes and has been in the mix going into final restarts in a couple of races. Jones is 18th in points and will have to win his way into the Cup Series playoffs, but that’s hardly an impossibility.
The long-term deal means he will become the outfit’s first driver to log four full seasons since Almirola from 2012-17. The continuity signals stability that should help Gallagher make a quality hire to replace Dillon now that Silly Season is in full swing.
Locking in Erik Jones ends a long process
Petty GMS team principal Maury Gallagher was effusive in his praise of Erik Jones while announcing the Cup Series driver’s new contract. Negotiations started in the spring, and Jones’ name has occasionally surfaced in speculation about a move to a bigger team, perhaps even replacing Aric Almirola at Stewart-Haas Racing.
“Erik has been a great addition to Petty GMS this year and we’re thrilled to have him signed for the coming years,” Gallagher said. “We’re excited to continue building our Cup program with Erik, Dave (Elenz), and the No. 43 team. They’ve shown great growth and potential this season and we know it will only continue.”
Elenz is a first-year Cup Series crew chief. In the previous five years, he was the Xfinity Series crew chief for William Byron (2017), Tyler Reddick (2018), and Noah Gragson (2019-21). Though it seems like a long shot, some observers think the Elenz connection could help attract Gragson to Petty GMS in 2023.
Even if it’s wishful thinking for those who want to see the legacy of Lee and Richard Petty continue, landing Gragson would be huge.
Erik Jones lands some well-deserved stability
Erik Jones landed at Richard Petty Motorsports last season after losing his ride following three seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing, where he scored his two NASCAR Cup Series victories. The ability to move forward on a multi-year contract gives him the peace of mind that should allow Jones to focus on being competitive every week.
“I’m really excited to have this deal done and finally be able to talk about it,” Jones said. “I really like the group I have at Petty GMS and working with Dave (Elenz). Each week I feel like we get better and better and put ourselves in contention to win.
“Knowing where I’ll be driving allows us to really focus on building the team and making our cars better. I’m looking forward to finishing this season strong, hopefully with a win, and continuing to build on what we started this year with Petty GMS.”
Got a question or observation about racing? Sportscasting’s John Moriello does a mailbag column each Friday. Write to him at JohnM@Sportscasting.com.